Guwahati: The wide bouquet of Indian teas from Darjeeling, Assam and the Nilgiris showcased at the India International Tea Convention, held between 22 and 24 November, prompted the government trade promotion body, Tea Board, to dub the three-day event as a biennial “Grand Indian Tea Party."

The meeting was attended by more than 400 delegates, including representatives from major foreign tea markets such as Iran, Kenya, Pakistan, Egypt, Germany and the UK.

Minister of state for commerce Jairam Ramesh’s recommendation that the convention be held every alternate year was well received. Basudeb Banerjee, chairman, Tea Board, said the government agency had decided to hold the meet every other year.

Stimulating brew: Delegates at a tea-tasting session at the India International Tea Convention in Guwahati.

The conventions would most likely be held during February or March, the best time to promote the popular winter-flavoured teas, he said.

A cross section of delegates at the convention said the event should be held on a regular basis so that it can be turned into a major event on the global tea calendar—similar to the World Tea Expo held annually from 31 May in the US, which attracts more than 600 exhibitors from all over the world.

Several delegates participating in the tea-tasting session, including the foreign representatives, were amazed by the large variety of teas grown in the different agro-climatic zones of India, said Krishan Katyal, director of tea auction firm J. Thomas & Co. Pvt. Ltd, who conducted the session. A number of delegates were impressed by the teas from the Nilgiris, which could easily compete with the renowned teas from Darjeeling. “It was a new experience, so many teas from one country," said Sicily Karikui, managing director of the Tea Board of Kenya.

For Nick Revett, director of UK-based retail giant R. Twinings & Co. Ltd, which has been operating in India since 1997, Indian teas meet nearly 20% of his company’s requirements. He refused to give details, only saying that an additional 35% came from China. Given the variety of Indian teas, his company proposes to expand its market, Revett said.

William Gorman, executive chairman of United Kingdom Tea Council Ltd, said tea consumption in his country is growing, especially in the speciality tea sector, where the growth is around 7% annually and that the market is dominated by tea bags.

Franz Thiele, director of German firm Thiele & Freese GmbH & Co., which has been engaged in tea imports since 1873, said that after China, which accounts for nearly 23% of Germany’s tea imports, India is the leading supplier, with around 7 tonnes of imports—a share of 15%,?of which a good part is Assamese tea.

Thiele said Europe has stringent laws about pesticide residue and added that the issue can only be dealt with effectively by the trade bodies of India and Europe together.

For meets such as the India International Tea Convention to be a success, it is important that major global trading firms be brought into the fold to understand the huge variety of teas India produces, said Ankit Kochan, export manager of Lochan Tea Ltd, a major exporter of Darjeeling tea based in Siliguri, West Bengal. The convention could become a platform for greater tea exports from India, he added.